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What do we learn of Wilde's view of the English Country House Weekend Parties in Late Victorian Society in Act 1 of "A Woman of No Importance"?

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Introduction

What do we learn of Wilde's view of the English Country House Weekend Parties in Late Victorian Society in Act 1 of "A Woman of No Importance"? Wilde was known to use his plays to express his views and opinions of society. In the late Victorian age a striking feature of the theatre was its faithful reflection and endorsement of social class and this was also a striking feature of Wilde's plays, including 'A Woman of No Importance'. The play, 'A Woman of No Importance' by Oscar Wilde starts with the comment that there are no country houses in America. This comment instantly illuminates the theme of the contrast between the old society of England and the new society of America. One huge contrast between America and England, which is of great relevance to this play, is their difference of the way they look on to those below them in social status. Hester is used as a vehicle in this play to show the difference between these two societies; 'LADY CAROLINE ...In my young days, Miss Worsley, one never met anyone in society who worked for their living. It was not considered the thing. HESTER In America those are the people we respect most.' This shows the great difference between the two societies and for me the fairness of the American society compared to that of the English society. ...read more.

Middle

Mr Kelvil seems to support the position of women in society and seems keen for them to make more of an influence, 'The growing influence of women is the one reassuring thing in our political life, Lady Caroline. Women are always on the side of morality, public and private.' This shows Mr Kelvil does seem to be in the favour of women, but we have to remember that he is a politician and politicians have a tendency to say what they think people want to hear, rather than what they actually think themselves. Mr Kelvil also seems to have a rather stereotypical view of women and this shows how women were looked upon and supposed to behave in society; always morally right, whether they are in public or in private. In this Act, I also thought it was interesting to look at the relationship between Sir John and Lady Caroline as a way at looking at the position of women in late Victorian society. In this relationship it seems that Lady Caroline is the one who is very much in control; 'LADY CAROLINE I think you had better come over here, John. It is more sheltered. SIR JOHN I am quite comfortable, Caroline. LADY CAROLINE I think not, John. You had better sit beside me. SIR JOHN rises and goes across' This is an almost role reversal in the late Victorian society, as it was always thought that the man in the relationship was the boss, but in this relationship it seems quite the opposite. ...read more.

Conclusion

Wilde himself was imprisoned for having a homosexual relationship. The first act finishes with the line, 'A women of no importance'. This finishes the scene, leaving the audience wondering who this woman is. She is obviously not a woman of no importance or Lord Illingworth would not remember her handwriting so specifically. When this line is spoken there is an air of mystery. It as if Wilde is saying that the Victorian society is not what you expect; behind closed doors there is always something the Victorians would not class as morally right going on. This line also has other connotations though, as to me it suggests that maybe Lord Illingworth thinks that women are generally of no importance. There is other evidence in this act to support this, such as when Mr Kelvil says, 'I am afraid, too, that Lord Illingworth regards woman simply as a toy.' Despite Lord Illingworth's supposed behaviour, he is still regarded as a social celebrity, showing the double standards of the late Victorian society. I feel that in conclusion Wilde's view of English Country House Weekend Parties is that they are not what they seem to be from the outside. Wilde shows us this through the use of suggestive language and careful phrasing. Wilde shows us through the use of dramatic conventions, the corruption of the middle class and therefore their country house weekend parties. ?? ?? ?? ?? Jenna Benedict Page 1 of 4 10/05/2007 ...read more.

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